Author Spotlight: Jamie Pacton talks THE LIFE AND (MEDIEVAL) TIMES OF KIT SWEETLY
I'm thrilled to welcome Jamie Pacton on today's blog! Jamie is a Young Adult and Middle Grade author who grew up minutes away from the National Storytelling Center in the mountains of East Tennessee. She has a BA and MA in English Literature, and currently teaches English at the college level. While pursuing her dream of being an author, she worked as a waitress, pen salesperson, lab assistant, art museum guard, bookseller, pool attendant, nanny, and lots of other weird jobs in between. Her writing has appeared in national and local magazines, and she spent many years blogging for Parents.com. Currently, Jamie lives in Wisconsin with her family and a dog named Lego. The Life and (Medieval) Times of Kit Sweetly is her debut novel.
Moxie meets A Knight’s Tale as Kit Sweetly slays sexism, bad bosses, and bad luck to become a knight at a medieval-themed restaurant.
Working as a Wench―i.e. waitress―at a cheesy medieval-themed restaurant in the Chicago suburbs, Kit Sweetly dreams of being a Knight like her brother. She has the moves, is capable on a horse, and desperately needs the raise that comes with knighthood, so she can help her mom pay the mortgage and hold a spot at her dream college.
Company policy allows only guys to be Knights. So when Kit takes her brother’s place, clobbers the Green Knight, and reveals her identity at the end of the show, she rockets into internet fame and a whole lot of trouble with the management. But this Girl Knight won’t go down without a fight. As other Wenches and cast members join her quest, a protest forms. In a joust before Castle executives, they’ll prove that gender restrictions should stay medieval―if they don’t get fired first.
Hi, Jamie! Welcome and congrats on the release of The Life and (Medieval) Times of KitSweetly. Can you share a little about the story and what inspired it?
Thanks you for the congrats! It’s been a wild release week indeed, and I’m so grateful for all the reader support and excitement.
THE LIFE AND (MEDIEVAL) TIMES OF KIT SWEETLY is about 17-year-old Kit, a serving wench at the Castle, a medieval-themed restaurant. Kit desperately wants to be a knight like her older brother Chris, but only cis dudes can be knights according to company policy. One shift, Kit rides out in Chris’ place. Her triumph—and the moment she reveals “I AM NO MAN!”— is caught on video, and Kit goes viral. She uses her newfound fame to launch a campaign to change things at the Castle. She’s joined by a group of friends—fierce folks across the gender spectrum—and they band together to over throw the medieval notion that only cis guys can be knights. There’s also a sweet friends-to-lovers story between Kit and her bff Jett; and, a whole lot of economic ups and downs as Kit navigates the financial instability her family faces.
As for what inspired KIT: I wrote a whole Twitter thread on this, but the short story is that a few months after the terrible results of the 2016 election, I took my youngest son to Medieval Times in Chicago. We’d talked a lot during the election cycle about feminism and a female president; and, although I didn’t go into the night of medieval fun and pageantry thinking I’d emerge with a book, as I watched the male knights ride and the female wenches serve us food (and as I talked with them), it occurred to me that we should have knights of all genders. And thus Kit’s quest was born.
Kit has such a great sense of humor! What was the best part of crafting her character?
I loved putting KIT in awkward situations and trying to see her find her way out of it. I also really loved pulling on my own knowledge of the Middle Ages and then finding away that Kit herself could incorporate that in her life. I put so many of my secret thoughts, strivings, wishes, and jokes into Kit, so that was fun too. I kind of think all authors do that to some degree with their characters, but seventeen-year-old Kit and seventeen-year-old Jamie are very similar. That said, I also adore Jett, her bff and love interest; and, I very much want to befriends with her other bff, Layla. And, I also really like her brother, Chris. He’s the brother I wish I had. Overall, my goal in KIT was to write lots of characters that readers loved as much as I did, so they could see some of their own favorite people in my characters.
I’m a firm believer in the idea that every story teaches the writer something new, so what did writing The Life and (Medieval) Times of Kit Sweetly teach you?
Ohhh, great question. KIT was my first book working with an editor, and I learned a lot about balancing story structure when working through edits on this book. My editor taught me a lot about the 4-act structure (I had been using the 3-act one), and this helped me bring balance to everything after the midpoint. I also learned a bit more about planning, drafting, and then revising when writing KIT. Again, because this was my first book with Page Street, I got to take it through developmental edits, line edits, copy edits, and then final checks. All that really lends itself to the idea that a book doesn’t have to be perfect on the first pass, which is something I’m taking into my writing of all future books. :)
What are you reading, watching, or otherwise currently infatuated with?
Let’s see, I LOVE the Daevabad books by S.A. Chakraborty, and I’m eagerly awaiting her next book, EMPIRE OF GOLD. I’m also reading a collection of feminist essays called PRETTY BITCHES, which I can’t recommend highly enough. It’s about the ways language is weaponized against women and the ways we’ve internalized that (and ways we can push against being called things like shrill, etc.).
I’m not really into any TV series right now, as I’ve been watching so much during quarantine that I’m through most if my lists. But, that said, I have a deep and abiding love for DERRY GIRLS, FLEABAG, PARKS AND RECREATION, and RICK AND MORTY.
And finally, what’s the most important lesson you’ve learned so far in your writing/publishing career?
I think I’ll have to say two here, as I can’t rank them.
1) Be patient. Publishing takes a long time, as does writing a book, finding an agent,selling a book, etc. And out of that, be kind to yourself. Writing a book is a tremendous accomplishment, but not every book sells. So, be sure to keep the joy in writing above all the author business stuff.
2) Find your people. Having a community of other writers to read your work, cheer you on, share your low and high moments with, and to read their work is a wonderful thing.I’m so lucky to have great writing friends, who are now some of my very best friends. They have helped me keep going, helped me shape my stories, and I cherish their words and our friendships.
Many thanks go out to Jamie for taking the time to tell us more about the work that went into KIT, as well as for sharing some of the lessons she's learned along the way in her publishing journey. Be to sure to add THE LIFE AND (MEDIEVAL) TIMES OF KIT SWEETLY to your Goodreads list, or (better yet!) order your copy (WRITE) NOW from retail sites like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or request it at your library, or local independent bookstore!
And, as always,